We continue our discussion of the new translation of the Roman Missal. Today we will examine the new translation of the Mystery of Faith (formerly called the Memorial Acclamation) which we will begin to chant at next Sunday’s Masses (except 7am and 7pm).
First, let’s review some applicable principles of translation outlined in the Vatican’s 2001 instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam [LA].
LA required “rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately …translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions… and without paraphrases or glosses.”
“The Latin liturgical texts …, while drawing on centuries of …transmitting the faith of the Church …are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal…. [T]he translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not …a work of creative innovation…” In short, the Latin prayers were carefully composed—don’t add or change anything.
“The manner of translating the liturgical books should foster a correspondence between the biblical text itself and the liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition which contain biblical words or allusions.” In short, when the Latin quotes or alludes to Scripture, the translation should reflect this.
Before considering how these principles help us to understand the new translation of “The Mystery of Faith,” let’s take a moment to consider the purpose and meaning of this part of the ritual. The term “Mystery of faith” (Mysterium fidei), emphasizes that the Eucharist, in as much as it is truly the miraculous re-presentation of both the sacrifice of the Cross and the Resurrection, is truly the central mystery of our faith. As Bd. John Paul II wrote in his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia:
“When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”…. [EE 11]. “Christ’s passover includes not only his passion and death, but also his resurrection….The Eucharistic Sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of the Saviour’s passion and death, but also the mystery of the resurrection which crowned his sacrifice.” [EE 14]
In proclaiming the “Mystery of Faith” immediately after the consecration we proclaim not only our faith in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but in awe and adoration we also acknowledge the profundity of what has happened: we are in the presence of and taken up into that eternal act that redeems the world.
Moving into a review of the new translation, we note how the “new” text makes clear that the priest and the people both make this proclamation, but each in their own specific way. The priest does not do so merely as an individual Christian, as the rest of the assembly does, but rather, as the one who has offered the sacrifice standing in persona Christi. We see this very clearly in a careful consideration of the proclamation/acclamation the priest says immediately after the consecration:
Latin: “Mysterium Fidei.”
Old 1973 translation: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” New 2011 translation: “The mystery of faith.”
Notice, the old 1973 translation adds the phrase “Let us proclaim…” which substantially changes the meaning of what the priest is saying/doing, making it an invitation for the people to join the priest in reciting one of several optional “versions” of “the mystery of faith” (e.g., “Christ has died…,” “Lord by your cross and resurrection…, etc.). But the Latin and in the new 2011 translation do not include this invitation; rather, the priest makes his own proclamation, said in persona Christi, acknowledging that this (the Eucharist) is “the mystery of faith.” This reflects the ancient practice (now suppressed) of placing the phrase “mystery of faith” within the actual words of consecration, so that in the consecration the priest, speaking in persona Christi, would say (in Latin), “This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant: the mystery of faith…”
In response to the priest’s proclamation, the people make their own proclamation of the “mystery of faith,” this one with more descriptive words expressive of the reality of the salvific nature of Lord’s death and resurrection made present on the altar. [Note: it would seem reasonable for the priest join in the people’s response to assist them in 1) knowing which option to use, and 2) encourage them to make the acclamation.]
Now let’s consider the new translations of each of the optional proclamations/acclamations of the people.
Latin: “Mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, et tuam resurrectiónem confitemur, donec vénias.”
Old: “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.”
New: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.
The new translation is an excellent translation of the Latin, while the old translation is more a “paraphrase” of the Latin, and also inserts us into the proclamation by adding “our death…our life.” Moreover, the new translation more clearly follows the Latin in drawing on St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 11:26 that in the Eucharist “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Latin: “Quotiescúmque manducámus panem hunc et cálicem bíbimus, mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, donec vénias.”
Old: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.”
New: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”
Here, both the old and new translations are very similar. Even so, the old translation added the words “Jesus” and “in glory,” which are not in the original Latin, and tend to distract from the almost direct correlation to 1 Cor 11:26.
Latin: “Salvátor mundi, salva nos, qui per crucem et resurrectiónem tuam liberásti nos.” Old: “Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of
New: “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us
Here we see that while the old translation kept much of the overall sense of the Latin text, it is essentially a paraphrase. However we also see how the old leaves out the invocation “Save us” (“salva nos”) that is unique to this option, and so an important omission.
The old translation included a 4th option, the very popular, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” This text, however, is completely “a work of creative innovation” and has no parallel in the Latin original, and so has been omitted from the English Missal.
To be continued…
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles